Archives for the month of: January, 2012

I have become a farmer.


My husband says that I am the most unlikely candidate for this as I am such a ‘Townie’, but ever since moving to the UK, farming has piqued my interest.

A little background on me – I grew up in the epitome of suburban California. Sure, there were farms somewhere around Roseville, but I never visited them. The closest I came to interacting with farm life was walking by livestock auctions through 4-H club at Denio’s. Chickens came from frozen from Foster Farms and our meat came from Bel-Air supermarket or Roseville Meats.

When the opportunity arose to become part of the National Trust’s My Farm/Mumsnet project to re-connect kids with where food comes from, I jumped at the chance. My son, G, is a really picky eater but one thing he loves is roast meat. He’s a big fan of animals and farms, too. Through My Farm, I am able to show him where his roast meat comes from and the importance of how the animals are bred and raised.

As My Farm farmers, we have a say in what happens at the farm – whether it is how many crops are sown or which breed of cow gets a bull. It is a good feeling knowing that we will contribute to the benefit and growth of the farming community.

Watch this space for Farmer Whiteman3’s adventures with My Farm and the National Trust.

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Last weekend, we visited the National Trust’s My Farm on the Wimpole Estate. There’s more to come on our farming adventures, but for our first instalment, Mini G wanted to share the picture of a sheep skeleton he drew.

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I haven’t participated in the Gallery for a while for no reason in particular, but this week I decided it was time to get back in the game (so to speak).

My aunt mentioned once that it was nice to see my face in a photo. Like my father, who is a photographer, I am never in any of the ‘family’ photos since I am the one usually taking them.  The theme for this week is ‘Photography Resolutions’, and while I have many, putting myself in the picture is one I can stand behind – or in front of, if we’re talking about a camera lens.

I have many photos of my husband with Mini G, but there are few and far between of myself and Mini G.

Me and mini G summer sundae

Festival backlight

Thank goodness for front facing cameras!

The Gallery

In continuing my quest to battle the bulge and lose that extra weight, I am always on the look out for tasty, yet low calorie treats. So when the Baking Mad Healthy Baking challenge arose, I jumped at the chance to be a part of it.  I selected the Apple Strudel recipe since we had access to hand picked apples from a local source. It also happens to be a favourite dessert of my husband from his childhood visits to Austria.

The baking challenge was sponsored by Baking Mad and Silver Spoon Half Spoon sugar, which has half the calories of regular sugar.

This recipe serves 6

650 grams Apples Eating, Cox’s (approx. 5 apples)

30 grams Almonds ground

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Nutmeg

35 grams Half Spoon Granulated Sugar (Silver Spoon)

1 orange finely grated zest**

Approx. 4 tbsp sunflower or grapeseed oil, plus extra for brushing and greasing

6-8 ready made filo pastry

cinnamon and Half Spoon sugar for sprinkling

**I didn’t have an orange, so I used lemon zest as a substitute.

Healthy ingredients

Preheat the oven to 190°C/fan170°C/Gas 5.

Peel, core and thinly slice the apples into a bowl. Add the ground almonds, spices and sugar and orange zest (or lemon zest).

Apple mixture

Unroll the pastry and cover with a damp cloth to stop it from drying out. Taking one sheet at a time brush each sheet of filo pastry with the oil, then place the sheets of pastry on top of each other onto a large sheet of greaseproof paper.

Arrange the apples in a narrow strip, lengthways down the centre of the pastry to within 3cm of each shorter edge.

Strudel construction

Fold the 2 shorter edges over the filling and then fold over 1 long edge and tuck the fruit firmly underneath the pastry. Brush with any remaining oil and fold over the other edge, so that it overlaps by at least 5-6cm.

Before the oven

Carefully transfer the strudel to a large oiled baking sheet. Brush with a little oil. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until crisp and golden.

After the oven

Leave the strudel to cool down slightly. Dust with a light sprinkle of cinnamon and Half Spoon sugar. Serve with greek yogurt.

Apple strudel with greek yogurt

This is a very tasty recipe. You’d never know it was low calorie. The flavours of the apple, almond, cinnamon and Half Spoon sugar worked so well together. The only downside of this recipe is the filo pastry was a bit too chewy around the folded edges. When I make it again, I’ll probably use half the amount of filo.

I had never made strudel before, and after this recipe challenge, I’ll definitely make it again.

Today is a very special day, it’s my dad’s birthday. Not only is it his birthday, his favourite football team – the 49ers – are playing in the Conference Championships.
I’m sad that I can’t be there to celebrate his birthday (and the game), so here’s to you, Dad… Happy Birthday! Oh, and go ‘Niners!

san-francisco-49er-logo

January has been a very busy month for birthdays and I’ve been busy baking cakes.

Cake batter

I kicked off the month with my husband’s birthday back on the 8th. Mini G decided Martin should have carrot cake and since I just got the Primrose Baking Book, G and I tested their recipe.

Carrot cake carrots

I left out the raisins and most of the cinnamon as Mini G is not a fan, but even without these, the cake was fabulous. It would be even better with raisins and the proper amount of cinnamon. I also topped it with an orange icing rather than cream cheese frosting, which made a very nice substitute.

Carrot bundt cake

A few days later, we celebrated Martin’s dad’s birthday. He’s a classic sort of guy, so I wanted to make a classic british cake. I wanted a challenge, so I went for the Battenburg and looked to my trusty Leith’s Baking Bible for guidance.

battenburg construction

The sponge itself is very simple to make. I split the batter in half and used Sugarflair ‘Claret’ paste to create the pink colour for the sponge. Then came the difficult bit… making 4 equal square lengths. I managed to cut the cake as close to equal as possible and slathered in between each length with apricot jam. Next up, the marzipan outer layer.

The key to this bit is to roll out the marzipan as thin as possible, but not too thin so it tears. I wrapped the cake as tightly as I could and voila! Battenburg cake!

Battenburg serving up

I’m glad I baked this, I’m glad it came out well, but I can’t see making it again anytime soon.

Tea time cake

A sassy little lady I know turned 10 yesterday. She loves chocolate and rabbits, so I created a cake with both.

Chocolate cake

The chocolate sponge was from Eric Lanlard’s Home Bake (It really is a foolproof chocolate sponge for any occasion) and I used Nigella’s All Purpose Chocolate Icing from How to be a Domestic Goddess.

chocolate icing

purple royal icing

To create the purple rabbits, I used regular ready to roll white royal icing and kneaded in some ‘Violet’ Sugarflair colour paste. Then rolled it out on baking parchment and cut out the rabbit shapes with a cookie cutter.

rabbit shapes

And here’s the finished cake… Happy Birthday, Biba!

Biba's cake

Mini G’s Poppy’s birthday was on the 20th and although I did not bake this cake, it needed to be featured. MIL made a chocolate Guinness cake from Nigella’s Feast book and it was divine. So much for my diet!

Guinness cake

Happy birthday to all of the Dad’s and to new friends! Let them eat cake!

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I’ve done well to maintain eating healthy over the past year, but the holiday indulgences took over a bit throughout December. Now that the holidays are over, temptation has been put away and I am back to exploring new, inventive and healthy recipes to tempt the taste buds.

Breakfast is my favourite meal of the day, and weekend breakfast is the time where I can spend time preparing tasty delights.

This weekend I spied some ricotta leftover in the fridge, some eggs and jalapeño peppers… Perfect for a healthy omelette.

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The combination of spicy jalapeños and creamy ricotta is fantastic. I used two eggs, heaped tablespoon of ricotta and half of a jalapeño pepper finely chopped. Fast, easy and tasty!

Happy new year!

I’m kicking off this new year with a new cookbook. I’ve had much success from the Primrose Bakery Cupcake book, I am really looking forward to getting stuck into their Baking book this year.

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Watch this space for many baking treats!

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